Amid store closings, the retailer is out to win the holidays

Not letting a little thing like a Chapter 11 reorganization stand in its way, Sears and sister chain Kmart have planned an aggressive program for Holiday 2018 that includes loyalty-laced social media, tighter ties with Amazon, a full slate of sales events, and new licensing deals for the company’s private-label Kenmore and DieHard brands.

“We’re firing on all cylinders to win Holiday 2018,” Sears’ brand chief Peter Boutros told TWICE. “We’re launching a very aggressive sales, marketing and promotional campaign to get customers back in the stores.”

Sears' Boutros: Out to sleigh the holiday

Sears' Boutros: Out to sleigh the holiday

Boutros, who serves as president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands and chief brand officer of Sears and Kmart, said the company will leverage its still vast resources — including brick-and-mortar, digital, delivery, installation, haul-away, repair and its trio of iconic house brands — to compete this holiday season.

“No other retailer has the breadth, capabilities and assets we offer,” he said.

Setting the tone will be a “Thanks For The Love” social media campaign in which Sears and Kmart express their gratitude to customers for the outpouring of support following the bankruptcy filing.

Besides consumers, Boutros said that Sears’ largest and most important vendors have also shown their commitment to the company’s long-term success. “Sears has supported many vendors over its 125-year history,” he said, “ and we’re thrilled at the reciprocity.”

But not all have been as accommodating. Whirlpool, a longtime brand presence on Sears’ sales floors, and historically a key Kenmore OEM, has asked the retailer to return all merchandise it delivered during the 45-day period preceding the filing.

In contrast, Amazon, which became the first retailer outside Sears and Kmart to carry Kenmore branded appliances, has bolstered the partnership by integrating its automated Dash Replenishment system into all Kenmore smart refrigerators. Owners can activate the service on their Amazon accounts through a Kenmore mobile app to regularly receive replacement water and air filters, and the partners plan to extend the program to Kenmore washers, dryers and dishwashers.

Watch: The Top 5 Tech Gifts Consumers Want This Holiday Season

On the promotional front, Sears’ “Dashing Through The Deals” holiday effort, launching tomorrow, will include Veterans Day and Family & Friends sales events and a five-hour Member Preview Night on Nov. 18, when Shop Your Way loyalty program members will have early access to all Black Friday doorbuster deals.

Kmart’s counterpart campaign, “Holly Jolly Savings/Yule Love It,” includes a Kmart Toy Book that’s being mailed to 2 million shoppers and circulated in 8 million newspaper editions nationwide, and an Unsung Heroes sales event (Nov. 8-12) that will provide first responders, active and retired military, and teachers and nurses with an extra 10 percent off purchases.

In addition, Kmart will provide complimentary photos with Santa every Sunday from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas week, and both chains will mount charitable efforts including a Heroes at Home fundraising campaign (Sears) to assist military families in need of critical home repairs, and contributions to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from the sale of holiday wrapping paper designed by the hospital’s young patients (Kmart).

See: Sears-Amazon Pact: Kenmore Has Left The Building

Adding more fuel to the holiday fire are several new licensing deals including Kenmore-branded water filtration appliances and accessories from Drinkpod, and DieHard brand electric vehicle (EV) chargers from AJ Consulting.

Despite the distraction of the Chapter 11 filing, Boutros said the company’s merchants and sales associates are “leaning into the fourth quarter”and uniting around the internal rallying cry of “Sleighing the Holiday.”

Kmart's theme for the holidays

Kmart's theme for the holidays

“We will fix the Chapter 11 noise,” he said. “We have one group of people focused on right-sizing the business, and the vast majority [of employees] laser focused on delighting members and customers with exceptional products and service.”

Looking ahead, Sears said it plans to re-emerge from bankruptcy as “a member-centric company” with a pared-back store base of about 400 locations, down from the 687 Sears and Kmart stores at the time of the filing, and “with the capital needed to allow us to prosper in the future.”

For the holiday season, that means liquidation sales at 142 unprofitable stores and ongoing shutdowns at 46 previously targeted locations.

While sorting through the bankruptcy and battling it out for the holidays, Boutros is also planning for the launch early next year of “a vigorous North Star” campaign. The effort will leverage Sears’ heritage as “part and parcel of the American fabric,” he explained, while also reaching out to new households and a younger generation of shoppers.

“We’re going to build on that legacy,” he said.

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